Shame & Silence

(this post contains graphic details, not suitable for children)

In the wake of all of the allegations and documented cases of sexual abuse, I feel obligated, once again, to share my story. I’ve never been raped, so my story is quite tame in a lot of ways, but the scars are still there and just as deep and everlasting. My goal in sharing these vignettes from my life is to reaffirm that these incidents are pervasive and happen not just in Hollywood, but in your neighborhood, possibly right down the street.

It’s also important to know that this post only covers physical sexual abuse. The number of times I have been verbally abused is too numerous to recount – whether at school, at work or places in between.

So, here are my stories . . . <deep breath>

Incident #1

At 12 years old
At 12 years old

By the age of 11, I was babysitting for a number of families in my neighborhood. Some families had even scheduled me on a standing basis on the weekends during the school year, and during the days on holiday breaks and summers. The T family was a regular customer and I had babysat for them and their three children numerous times. The pattern was well-established. I would arrive in time to feed the children dinner, play with them for a bit and then put them to bed, as the parents would leave for a child-free evening of dinner and whatever else they had planned. One particular night stands out. The parents were going to a party in the neighborhood and would be close by. I thought nothing of it.

Shortly after the children were in bed, as I was watching TV, I heard the door unlock. It was far too early for the couple to be home, so I carefully made my way toward the door. I was relieved when I saw the father coming through the door. I thought, “Whew, it’s just Mr. T.” He came in and said that he had forgotten something and went upstairs to get whatever that something was. When he reappeared at the bottom of steps, I was there to walk to the door with him so I could lock up.

It was all very normal, though in retrospect, there was nothing in his hands and whatever he came home for was either in his pocket or . . .? As we walked to the door, he leaned down and said, “How about a kiss?” I knew this man, trusted and respected him. But what did he mean exactly? Not knowing what to do and assuming this was a harmless gesture (much like my Dad would kiss my best friend, Marie, in a paternal, non-creepy way) I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and smelled the alcohol on his breath. He lunged forward, held me tight and forced his tongue down my throat. My 4 foot 9, 70-pound frame finally slipped from his grip and I said, as firmly as I could muster, that he needed to leave. He looked at me with amusement, as I was telling him to leave his own home. He chuckled and left.

I was fortunate that my parents were home that night. After I locked the door (why, I’m not sure I know because the threat had a key), I called them, shared what happened and they came over immediately.

When the couple arrived home, they were greeted not by me, but by my father. My mother had taken me home, while my father finished my babysitting duties. I wasn’t there to see, but I suspect some knowing glances passed between my father and Mr. T, as my father explained that I had gotten sick during the evening.

But we never said a word about what actually happened. We never told his wife. And I never babysat there again. Thinking back, I probably put another babysitter in harm’s way, but we just didn’t think about things like that back then. We removed the threat and moved on with our lives.

Incident #2

At the awkward age of 13, I had an active social life which mainly rested on the schedule of bar and bat mitzvahs of my fellow Hebrew school students. And while there were only about 25 of us, it made for a busy season of services and parties. It’s important to know that I saw these children 3-4x a week: 2x at Hebrew school, at least 1x at their bar or bat mitzvah service and then at the ensuing Saturday night party. With rare exception, it was the same kids at these parties, week in and week out. And even though it was a small group, it was large enough to have cliques.

Being scrawny with glasses and needing braces, I was not “cool” even at Hebrew school. I had friends and enjoyed the camaraderie, but was not a part of the “in crowd.” But it was customary to invite everyone in your grade to your party, so everyone attended.

J.K. was rather new to our community and as an outsider to some extent, seemed a bit mysterious and interesting to the rest of us who had known each other for years. His party was held in his basement with the usual complement of snack food, loud rock music and parents and out-of-town relatives upstairs. My parents – who knew the family – dropped me off and would come back for me later.

Toward the middle of the evening, J.K. started paying attention to me. I was surprised but mostly flattered. He was the new kid and he was hanging out with me. Sometime later, he invited me into his bedroom to look at something (etchings? I can’t remember what exactly), which was only steps away from the festivities. Once inside, he closed the door, turned off the lights, pushed me onto his bed and put his tongue in my mouth. My second French kiss – if you can call it that – only slightly less disgusting as this was a boy my own age, so that made it ok(?). At first, I thought, hmm, this is what a kiss is? I wasn’t impressed. But mid-thought, he stopped and I moved to get off the bed. That’s when he pushed me down again, pinning me to the bed and forcing his penis into my mouth. I choked, cried and tried to extricate myself.

He ejaculated, got up, zipped his pants and walked out of the room.

I was left there, stunned, hurt and a mess, both physically and emotionally. And I had to walk out and face my friends.

So what do you think I did? Nothing. Absolutely, nothing. I tried to make myself presentable – thank goodness for the mirror in his bedroom – and walked out like nothing had happened and stayed at the party until the end.

My parents picked me up and when asked, I told them it had been a nice party. And I saw all of those kids again numerous times, including J.K., but nothing was ever said. No apology ever attempted. Like it never even happened.

This is the first time I’ve told this story – to anyone. And I can still see my younger self going into that room. The voice inside my head is yelling, “Stop! Don’t go!” But it’s too late and I relive that moment like it was yesterday.

Incident #3

Things were pretty uneventful for the next several years. Fortunately, I made good choices when it came to high school boyfriends. They were kind, tender and would never force themselves on someone.

However, college was a whole new ballgame. I’ve shared in a previous blog post that my first Friday night at college, my sophomore roommate offered to take me with her to a frat party. The events that evening affected my entire college career. After that first night, I never left my dorm alone. In fact, I never went anywhere alone for the remaining 4 years I was there.

The Point

My experiences didn’t involve the highly successful, the rich or the famous. I was assaulted by average guys, leading average lives. I don’t know why they did what they did.

What I do know is:

I’m not alone.

What happened to me doesn’t and will never define me.

This has got to stop and the more voices that speak out, the better off we all are.

Please share your story, in whatever way you are comfortable doing so. You are not alone.

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